Ode to the Stuff in the Garage


Our garage (like so many others) is full of good intentions. I’m indebted to my friend Dave for sharing the following for this Monday’s Poem of the Week. Someone once told me that it’s better to sit on a thumbtack than to have a good idea, for it makes you get up and do something about it. J

Ode to the Stuff in the Garage

O teetering piles of useful debris
Remainders and reminders of the mess I used to be
I want to keep you in my life forever, apathetically
Storage is a failure to accept mortality
O memories in cardboard, O projects yet half-done
Old sports equipment pitifully promising new fun
Rusty tools and paper jewels and follies of the young
Springs awaiting opportunities of being sprung
Our time has come and gone but I still treasure what we had
And so I keep you close to me and how can that be bad?
I’d like to come and visit all the objects I adore
Unfortunately there’s so much now I can’t get through the door

Copyright © 2011 by Dave Grossman

Posted in America, Health and wellness, Humor, Poetry, Thoughts & Musings | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Fasciculation


Many of you have likely noticed that Monday’s Poem of the Week often have themes related to medicine and family. I make no apologies for this, for this is who I am, and this is what I do. However, as the themes of life, death and family are common to us all, I hope you enjoy these offerings.

Fasciculation

A twitch

The answer to a question

That I dare not ask.

Electric tendrils scamper down

Like skiers picking up steam from

The peak of what once was a towering intellect

Navigating contours of muscle

That once held up our family

Sliding to a halt at a fingertip

That accidentally beckons me closer.

They tell me you are gone

That these vibratos enlivening your grasp

Silently strumming a melody of hope

Are the enigma of a mind lost.

Bit I cannot just decide that

That there isn’t a cipher just beyond my reach.

If there was a way, you’d sleuth it.

Perhaps I’m the fool

Choosing the middle card again

Knowing full well that there will be no winners.

Yet here I stand guard

Shining my flashlight at the black hole

Hoping the obscurity may resolve

If I just shake these bad batteries.

  • Samuel J. Belfer
Posted in America, Death and Dying, Family, Fathers and Sons, Medicine, Poetry, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Wise Circumstances


It’s Monday, so time for another Poem of the Week. This past weekend I traveled down memory lane, looking through boxes of old photos and papers, seeking a gift for a long-time colleague having a landmark birthday. It was here that I came across this old poem, and couldn’t help but smile.

Wise Circumstances

You are not someone I would pick

had not we been thrown together

            by circumstances

  I would never have known you

                        loved you

            and been loved

                        by you

Circumstances seem wiser than I

Posted in America, Dating, Family, Happiness, Love, Marriage, Poetry, Relatioships, Thoughts & Musings | 2 Comments

Crossing the Border


The Monday Morning Poem of the Week brings you this wry reminder of the signposts in our lives. Since it’s a journey which we all take, we might as well enjoy it with a mix of dry humor.

Crossing the Border

Senescence begins

And middle age ends

The day your descendants

Outnumber your friends.

_ Ogden Nash

Posted in America, Children, friendship, Humor, Poetry, Thoughts & Musings | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Grief in the Time of the Pandemic


The phone rang this morning. The news of my friend and old officer manager’s death did not come as a surprise. I had spoken to her only a week ago, and knew she was sick with Covid, thanks to the ubiquity of home tests and typical symptoms. Despite my urging to go to the hospital, she insisted on staying home until she could be seen in the office by her family doctor. On her way to his office, her daughter had to call paramedics. She ended up in the ICU to die two days later of complications of Covid pneumonia and acute kidney failure. Her loss is just one in the series of personal friends and acquaintances who have ended up as statistics in the growing pandemic of this disease.

Health care workers like me are often expected to know better than other people how to deal with grief. We don’t. There is no one-size-fits-all rule book for grief. People do their best.

A theory of grief popularized by Lois Tonkin brought me some relief. Tonkin says it’s a common misconception that grief gets smaller over time. What really happens is that your life grows bigger around it. I do not believe that the pain and grief of this pandemic will get smaller with the passage days or even years, especially for us in the medical field. We’ve lost too many people. We’ve had too great a burden placed on us. But I do believe that as we continue to grow, relief will come.

To confront grief is to confront the fact that each moment of life is uncertain. We doctors typically, and perhaps necessarily, prefer to feel in control.

Yet no amount of planning stops the inevitable or makes the unknowable knowable. You’ll get that call that knocks the wind out of you, whether it’s a patient who dies unexpectedly or someone close to you. You’ll feel like you are finally getting a handle on things again at work, and another variant will arise, overwhelming your hospital once again. Another phone call will announce that someone you’ve cared about is gone.

We are never finished with grief. It is part of the fabric of living. Grief is the shadow love casts in the light of loss. The greater our caring for who we lost, the vaster the shadow.

Suffering my own losses over time helped me to understand how much of grief is about losing our idea of the future. We realize the things we planned for with another will now never happen.

As Joan Didion observed, “Grief is passive. Grief happens. Mourning, the act of dealing with grief, requires attention.”

Joy and beauty returns to our life despite the sorrow of the moment; we only have to open our eyes and hearts to receive it. I continue to grow around the grief. The things I thought I could not do, I’ve done. We are the living, and life moves forward.

Posted in America, Covid-19, Death and Dying, Grief, Health and wellness, Medicine, Thoughts & Musings | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Her Patient Days


Due to circumstances beyond our control, the posting of Monday’s Poem of the Week had to be delayed until today. Mea culpa!

Her Patient Days

What was it but an act of abnegation when she

shook her head and said, her voice small enough

to slide under a locked door,

no pain no pain. She who had always

given us reassurance, though now

nothing could assured. Those were her patient days –

her body a tool she could no longer wield,

an awkwardness, a jerking here and there

when she tried. For many years

we watched her move her body

as if it were a thing she’d always easily master –

like a driver who could carry on a full conversation

with a passenger, about a book on tape

both were listening to, could take her right hand

off the wheel to raise a pointed finger in the air

for emphasis, and still, still, you’d never

lose confidence in her control of the car.

For years. But now her body

was a weight only professionals could maneuver.

We interceded when they prodded us forward

telling us how to move her, how to touch her,

and where. They, clipped and knowing

in their scrubs, and us

undone, revealed

in our clumsiness as if we wore thick

asbestos gloves. There were other things which

I had wanted to say here, other territory

to which I’d intended to travel. But now I see her

in that bed, the lights lowering for the evening, her body

an unmaneuverable mass in front of her

almost, it seems, smothering her small voice –

No pain no pain. And I wonder why

we’d even asked if she felt any. Did we think

we could help her, us with our muffled hands?

  • Benjamin S. Grossberg
Posted in America, Death and Dying, Family, Health and wellness, Medicine, Poetry, Relatioships, Thoughts & Musings | 1 Comment

Plenty Left Unclaimed


Happy 4th of July! If you’re looking for patriotic inspiration, I’m afraid you won’t find any on today’s Poem of the Week (though there are plenty available if you turn on your TV or look around your neighborhood.) On the other hand, if you need a name for your band, my friend Dave is offering you the following useful advice:

In checking these with Google, I did have to replace a surprising number that were being used or very close to something being used. But there are still:

Plenty Left Unclaimed

Ex Poster Facto, Barbie’s New Friends
Loaded Expression, The Sanity Cleanse
Hot Blender Sandwich, Polluted Opinion
Jersey Floss Army, Profanity’s Minions
Gin Backrub, The Snobjects, Telly Savant
Umber Lump, Hesitant Debutante
Patty Unscrupulous, Instant Croissant
The Costly, The Thickeners, The Non-nonchalant
Elbows for Elvis, That Thing in July
Lewd Preposition, Enormous Beat Pie
Forget those who say that the pool has run dry
Good band names are still in abundant supply

Copyright © 2011 by Dave Grossman

Posted in America, Humor, Poetry, Thoughts & Musings | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Gardening


Thanks to my friend Dave, This Monday Morning Poem of the Week goes out to all you gardeners and wordsmiths out there. I know there are a number of you in one or both categories. Hope you are all well.

Metaphor is a two-way street.

Gardening

Gardening is poetry
One reads the leafy land
Bushes showing stoically
The author’s calloused hand
And poetry is gardening
Good soil and care and feeding
Prayer, luck and bargaining
And lots and lots of weeding

Copyright © 2011 by Dave Grossman

Posted in America, Humor, Poetry, Thoughts & Musings | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Broca’s Aphasia


This Monday’s Poem of the Week addresses one of the aftermaths of stroke, while at the same time focusing on one of the most essential aspects of life. May we be spared this scourge, but not never forget to include the ingredient of love in all we do.

Broca’s Aphasia

The stroke too much but left her

three words;

half-smile, right arm palsied,

every step

another impending fall, the stroke

stole strength

and speech but overlooked one

heirloom gift,

the small box she opens each time

she sees me,

everyone, every greeting

I love you,

I love you all

she can say,

all she needs to.

  • Bill Griffin
Posted in America, Family, Health and wellness, Love, Marriage, Medicine, Poetry, Relatioships, Thoughts & Musings | Tagged | Leave a comment

Father’s Day


Today is Father’s Day, a chance for those who are fortunate enough to still have their fathers on the right side of the grass to let them know how grateful they feel. Sadly, for many of us, our fathers have already passed and we can only honor their memory. Even sadder, some had fathers in name only; people who walked out to never come back, or were absent so much they were essentially MIA. Some had fathers who were abusive, and others who just couldn’t share feelings in a meaningful way. We need to learn to forgive the ones who hurt us, for without forgiveness, we can’t stop hurting. I count myself amongst the lucky ones, and in his honor, as well as for all the fathers out there trying to do the best they can with a job for which none of us received an instruction manual, here’s a piece I wrote in prior years, but that remains just as applicable today.

FATHER’S DAY

I knew that Father’s Day was a relatively recent invention, but I hadn’t appreciated just how much until a little research uncovered the following facts: The idea is credited to Sonora Dodd, who on hearing a sermon on Mother’s day in 1909 wanted a special day to honor her father, a Civil War veteran who raised his children while working as a single parent. It wasn’t until 1966 that President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day, and not until 1972 that President Richard Nixon signed the law which made this a permanent day of celebration.

Anne Sexton wrote in one of her books, “It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.” I doubt any of us have a very objective assessment of our fathers. As young children, we need them to be strong, protective figures of power in our lives. As adults, we all struggle to reassemble our childhood vision with the necessarily flawed (but at least in my case, always loving) man looking back at us, against whose authority we need to assert our own individual identities.

Fatherhood has gotten the short shrift in our society, and perhaps that is because the role that our culture had created for fathers was not always a very sympathetic one. The stern, often cold, and authoritarian figures depicted in Victorian times mixed with the more recent portraits of men siring then abandoning their offspring may in part be responsible for this phenomenon. I agree that this day ought to celebrate not each man who managed to procreate, but those who have actually done their best at being good fathers.

I’ve written well deserved tributes to my father in this Space before, and I miss his presence in my life on this day, along with the other 364 in the year. Being a father myself now, I have gained a much deeper respect for how difficult and challenging this role can be, as well as how rewarding. I confess that I’ve fallen short on many of the skills fathers are expected to pass on to their sons. My athletic pretensions have been limited, and I’m grateful that my son at least has learned to like hiking and skiing with me. I don’t know how to fix cars, track a deer, or perform home repair without requiring medical attention. Needless to say, my son has been left bereft in these departments. I’m less than enthused about facing danger, and work hard at avoiding confrontation. I’m not the ideal role model of the dads I used to see depicted in Boy’s Life. Despite my many shortcomings, I somehow managed to produce a son who to all appearances has a strong moral core and a kind heart, though he probably would not rate high on aggression, competitiveness or some of the other “manly” traits. I can pride myself on the fact that he’s become independent, self supporting, and happy with the choices he’s made in his life. In this respect, I can answer the question that I asked on this day, “What makes a good father?” My son.

Posted in America, Children, Family, Fathers and Sons, Relatioships, Thoughts & Musings | Tagged | 2 Comments